What is That Anyway? A Spotlight on Mastic Gum

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by | Updated: August 8th, 2017 | Read time: 3 minutes

You simply popped a piece of minty gum in your mouth and puckered up for that first kiss. What you didn’t do was stop to think where that chewy, breath-freshener originated. As history would have it, mastiha – or mastic – gum was the first natural chewing gum. Ancient Greeks chewed the dried, resinous sap to clean teeth and freshen breath. Since its discovery, mastiha has been a cherished commodity in Greece, specifically in Chios Island. Why is it so special? What can mastiha or mastic gum do for you? The Chios Mastiha Growers Association has these answers and more.

Mastic Tree on Greece Coastline Produces Mastic Gum for its Benefits | Vitacost.com/blog

What is mastic gum, anyway?

Chios mastiha is the name of the sap produced by the mastic tree. (That’s why mastiha and mastic are somewhat interchangeable). Mastiha is an aromatic resin that naturally forms into a teardrop shape. When cultivators make superficial scratches on the tree’s trunk or main branches, the sap drops to the ground and dries into a chewy substance.

The mastiha tree is an evergreen that belongs to the Anacardiaceae family. Primarily, it grows on the coasts of the eastern basin of the Mediterranean Sea. One variety in particular, the Pistacia lentiscus, is the choice mastiha, unique for its therapeutic properties. This is the variety used to formulate ROOT2 Chios Mastic Gum capsules.

Why is Chios the best place to cultivate mastiha?

Chios Island is the birthplace of mastiha. It’s one of the biggest islands in the Aegean Sea and it renowned for its mild climate, beautiful beaches and numerous historical monuments. Above all, Chios is world-famous for its mastiha. The combination of the variety of tree, soil, microclimate, topology and relief of the region make this small nook of the globe perfect for mastiha to flourish.

What are mastic gum’s benefits and primary uses?

The Chios Mastiha Growers Association has been on a mission to introduce mastiha beyond the borders of Greece through healthy products and applications. Because of mastiha’s unique properties and the Association’s hard work, it is currently used in food, supplements, beauty products and various industrial uses.

Food & drink: Chios mastiha is one of the oldest known spices in the Mediterranean and lends its distinctive aroma to many foods and drinks. Mastiha is usually served as an aperitif or used as a mix-in for alcoholic beverages.

Supplements: Mastiha makes an important dietary supplement for those who lack trace elements. Research has shown that 1,000 milligrams of mastic gum supports digestive health. Mastic gum also provides antioxidant support.*

Beauty: Cosmetics enriched with mastiha oil promise deep skin cleansing, protection from aging and reinforcement of collagen production. Because of its distinctive aroma, mastiha oil is also a common addition to perfumes.

Industrial: Because mastiha is partially dissoluble in alcohol and fully dissoluble in ether, turpentine and other organic solvents, it is widely used for industrial purposes. It acts as a color stabilizer, making mastiha useful in high-grade varnishes.

How do the Chios Mastiha Growers Association’s cultivation and production stand above the rest?

The Chios Mastiha Growers Association is the representative body of about 4,500 growers-associates. Regardless of the size, mastiha production is a family affair that has remained relatively unchanged over the centuries. Men take care of the natural fertilization and pruning of the shrubs in winter. By mid-June, women sweep, level and clean the ground around the trunk, so that the mastic can easily be recovered. From July to October is when the cultivators make their marks on the trees to produce the sap. Once the mastic has solidified, the tears are selected, washed and stored before being delivered to the Chios Mastiha Growers Association factory.

Chios mastiha is a Product of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), which means Chios mastiha is protected from the sale of any competitive imitation product that would undermine the reputation of the Designation of Origin.

The Chios Mastiha Growers Association continues to protect the authenticity and purity of Chios mastiha. The Association’s main goal is always to support our thousands of growers-associates and continue funding research for mastiha’s benefits and applications. That’s why we were so happy to find a well-established company as Vitacost, who appreciates the long-standing history of mastic gum and its beneficial activities as an herbal supplement.